LA Kings: Three players trending toward a divorce with team

LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)
LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports) /

Arthur Kaliyev’s debut is the first domino in the LA Kings prospect pool, and these three players are in danger of losing regular playing time.

For a few years now, the LA Kings prospect pool has been the saving grace for some bad hockey at the NHL level. Adding Quinton Byfield, Alex Laferriere, and Brock Faber, among others, in the 2020 NHL Draft only added to the wealth of talent the Kings’ organization has on the way.

Los Angeles is entering the sink-or-swim part of their schedule with two games against the Vegas Golden Knights this weekend, four more games against Minnesota, and a two-game set against the Blues, in terms of teams above the .500 mark. The Kings were embarrassed by their rivals in the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night, underperforming in all three phases of the game.

On the offensive side, the lone bright spot saw 2019 second-round pick Arthur Kaliyev make his NHL debut, scoring his first career goal in the second period. That’s all the offense the Kings could muster on a frustrating night, but a much larger picture suggests this is just the beginning regarding the team’s prospect pool.

It will be interesting to see where the LA Kings are at in the standings at the end of February. If another top-five draft pick looks to be in the cards, it makes a lot of sense to get a look at some of the other offensive talent in the prospect pool, within reason, of course. Eventually, that day will come when it seems like a prospect is being promoted every game, and these three players could find themselves out of a job.

1. Michael Amadio

Michael Amadio finished with six goals and 16 points in his first full-time role with the LA Kings last season, but for whatever reason, the 24-year-old just hasn’t found “it” on the team’s fourth line this year. On Tuesday, Amadio started in place of Blake Lizotte on the second line, which played a major role in why the offense was so stagnant.

Amadio has just a 47.7 xGF% (expected-goals-for percentage) this season – compared to 55.6 xGF% in 19-20 – and he’s set to become a restricted free agent at the end of the season. The Kings will likely tender him a contract, perhaps a one-year deal similar to Matt Luff, but his days in the LA Kings lineup are numbered.

2. Austin Wagner

Speed has been the only consistent tool in Austin Wagner‘s arsenal. If not for Andreas Athanasiou falling into the NHL’s COVID protocol, would the 23-year-old still be a healthy scratch for the LA Kings? Wagner was primarily limited to fourth-line play in the 19-20 campaign, scoring six goals and 11 points in 65 games.

Through five games played this season, the Kings fourth-round pick in 2015 has just one assist and a 43.0 xGF%. Wagner is averaging 9:48 time on-ice, the lowest since his rookie year. The organization re-signed him to a three-year extension during the offseason at an affordable $1.1M cap hit. He can be a valuable depth piece on another club, but he’s not long for the LA Kings future.

3. Trevor Moore

Acquired in the Kyle Clifford and Jack Campbell trade with Toronto last year, Trevor Moore was a bit of a wild card. He’s already 25 years of age, and he’s proven success at the AHL level but never got a full opportunity to showcase his talents on an NHL club. He’s getting that with the LA Kings now, scoring three goals and five points in 15 games during 19-20.

This season, Moore has played in all nine games, but he’s yet to record a goal. He has three assists and owns a 39.6 xGF% in 5-on-5 play. He’s shown good speed on the team’s fourth line and indicated that he’s feeling more comfortable in year two with the Kings, but the production just isn’t there. Moore will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season. Should the Kings give someone like Rasmus Kupari a look along the wing in place of Moore?

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